retirement

Omaha, Neb.: A Great Midsize City for Retiring in Good Health

A burgeoning social scene helps make this affordable small town attractive to seniors.

Population: 443,885

Cost of living: 91.3 (national median: 100)

Median home price: $145,500 (national median: $185,000)

Healthy highlight: A burgeoning biking community via the city's bike-sharing program

B.J. Reed is in awe of how fast Omaha has grown in the past decade. A resident for more than 30 years, Reed, 67, has seen his city evolve from an insular industrial town to a multicultural diamond in the rough in the Great Plains. "It's becoming more of a 24/7 city," he says, with an increasingly diverse mix of restaurants, retail and leisure activities. Such activities, coupled with an expanding health care system, appeal to the many retirees who are making Omaha their home. "They like its pace and its people," says Reed, a senior vice chancellor at the University of Nebraska–Omaha (UNO).

And what's not to like? This affordable, small-town setting offers art galleries in downtown's Old Market; concert halls, including the Holland Performing Arts Center; retail shops at Midtown Crossroads; a variety of ethnic restaurants; and sporting events at CenturyLink Center arena.

Pedestrian-friendly Aksarben–Elmwood Park, less than 15 minutes from downtown and bordering UNO, offers retirees the best of both worlds. You'll find quiet, residential neighborhoods featuring Colonial and Tudor Revival homes on the north and east sides. To the west is Aksarben Village, a new entertainment and shopping com­munity with shops, restaurants, bars, movie theaters, bike-friendly paths and space for outdoor music festivals. "The Village has brought a lot of energy and walkability to the neighborhood," says Leah Meyer, copresident of the Aksarben–Elmwood Park Neighborhood Association.

Homes in Aksarben–Elmwood Park are affordable, with a median price of $148,000, but it's a highly competitive market; homes are being bought sight unseen and are often sold before they are posted online.

One big bonus to living in Omaha: access to health care, including the medical centers of the University of Nebraska, Creighton University and Think Whole Person Healthcare, a cutting-edge, physician-led practice.

Taxes are a challenge for retirees in the Cornhusker State. The total rate for state and local taxes is 7% (5.5% for state and 1.5% for local). Social Security benefits are taxed, although rules that recently took effect exempt some of that income from state taxes. Still, Nebraska taxes most other retirement income, including retirement-plan withdrawals and public and private pensions.

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